We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
George Miller’s “Mad Max” films didn’t just make Mel Gibson a star—they completely transformed post-apocalyptic entertainment with their visceral stunt work and singular vision of an increasingly desperate future. Three decades after the last film, the oft-maligned “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome,” Miller finally returns to this desolate landscape for the highly-anticipated “Mad Max: Fury Road,” recasting the title role in the grizzled visage of Tom Hardy and upping the stakes with promises of vehicular mayhem on a level commensurate with what modern CGI audiences have come to expect.
From its very first scenes, “Fury Road” vibrates with the energy of a veteran filmmaker working at the top of his game, pushing us forward without the cheap special effects or paper-thin characters that have so often defined the modern summer blockbuster. Miller hasn’t just returned with a new installment in a money-making franchise. The man who re-wrote the rules of the post-apocalyptic action genre has returned to show a generation of filmmakers how they’ve been stumbling in their attempts to follow in his footsteps.
“Who was more crazy? Me, or everyone else?” In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Miller has pushed his Gilliam-esque vision of a world gone mad to its logical extreme. No longer are the people of Max Rockatansky’s world merely scavengers for oil or power; they have been transformed into creatures of circumstance, either left with one defining need or left without any semblance of reason. “Fury Road” is a violent film, but the violent acts in this world don’t feel like arbitrary action beats—they emerge from a complete lack of other options or a firm sense of straight-up insanity. Miller’s new vision of Max isn’t a warrior. Rather, he’s a man driven by the memories of past sins to do little more than survive. He walks with the ghosts of those he couldn’t save, and his traveling companions have pushed him to the brink of sanity.
While wandering at this edge, Max is kidnapped and transformed into a literal blood bag for a feral warrior named Nux (Nicholas Hoult), who serves the whims of his maniacal ruler, Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the villain Toecutter in the original “Mad Max”). From the start, Miller gives you no time to “ease” into this world or the story he wants to tell. The frame rate is accelerated, the editing is hyperactive, the bad guy speaks through a mask that makes half his dialogue indecipherable (shades of Hardy’s Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises”), and the horrific visions of Miller’s twisted future come fast and furious. Immortan Joe is a barely-alive freak of nature, kept breathing by tubes connected to his face and served by similarly disfigured half-humans with definitive names like Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones) and The People Eater (John Howard).